- Potassium is essential for cell life and function.
- Helps transform carbohydrates into energy.
- Lowers blood pressure, a leading risk for strokes and heart disease.
- Associated with lower risk of developing diabetes.
- Helps lower risk of kidney stones.
- Research shows a positive effect on bone health.
Potassium… an essential, but “ignored” mineral
Potassium is essential for life. This mineral, found in foods like bananas, avocados, beans, cantaloupe, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes and soybeans is crucial for life in every cell. Certain medications (diuretics) and certain diseases, like diabetes, can increase the loss of potassium in the urine. Further, simply cooking food (i.e. boiling vegetables) can dramatically lower its natural high potassium content. Processed foods typically have much less potassium than natural foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Potassium is a “Good Guy” for Metabolism Health
Potassium is concentrated inside your cells and allows nerves to work, muscles to contract, and helps turn carbohydrates into energy. Potassium also tends to relax blood vessels. Deficiencies have been associated with increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, dizziness, weakness, and irregular heart beats, not to mention an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.
Also, potassium actually burns calories as it is transported into your cells. Every 1,000 mg of potassium in the diet requires approximately 90 calories “burned” from your metabolism.
Oh how the times have changed… and the diet
It is thought that pre-agricultural man consumed 600 mg of sodium per day and up to 7,000 mg of potassium. Current intakes of sodium are around 4,000 mg/day (about twice the recommended 2,000 mg/day) and potassium is around 2,500 mg/day (half the recommended 5,000 mg/day). Since our bodies contain 2-4 times more potassium than sodium, it is intuitive that more sodium than potassium every day might eventually cause problems. Although difficult to achieve, I generally recommend that people consume at least 2-4 times as much potassium as sodium daily.
Got Hypertension? You’re not alone! And Potassium might help!
A higher sodium to potassium ratio in the diet (what Americans do) is associated with elevated blood pressure, increased heart disease risk and overall death rates. 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure now, the leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke and 90% of Americans will eventually develop hypertension, with few getting it under adequate control. High blood pressure is the most common reason for prescription drugs in the U.S. and causes 62% of strokes and 49% of heart disease. Optimal potassium could be the answer for many…
Potassium supplements significantly lower both systolic (top number) blood pressure and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure according to multiple research studies. Studies have used the equivalent of 6 capsules two times daily with benefits. A very significant blood pressure reduction of 8 mm Hg systolic and 6 mm Hg diastolic has been shown with this dose.
Remember, any blood pressure reading at or above 120 (top number) and over 80 (bottom number) is elevated (60% of adults) and increases risk of stroke and heart disease. A blood pressure of 110/70 or less is believed optimal. Unfortunately, aging results in BP increases of 1 mm Hg every 2 years. Consuming less salt (sodium), more potassium, physical activity, limiting alcohol and maintaining an optimal weight are all keys to keeping blood pressure ideal. And these lifestyle changes are more powerful than medications at preventing strokes and heart disease.
Gain Muscle with Potassium Citrate!
We are losing muscle as we age, about ½ pound each year. Even if that does not sound like much, over 30 years, it is a devastating loss of 15 lbs of healthy muscle. Look around at a nursing home some time and you’ll see the implications in frail men and women. Literally, we are urinating our muscle nitrogen at the rate of 4-5 pounds of muscle every 10 years, especially after age 50. Potassium citrate puts this to a stop by correcting the chronic acid state of our bodies from the typical American diet. In fact, one study (60 mmol/day of potassium citrate or 24 capsules daily) indicated that potassium citrate can reverse 10 years of muscle loss by restoring 4.4 lbs of lean muscle in just 12 months of supplementation.
Preventive role against Diabetes!
Diabetes negatively affects many body processes, including a decrease of potassium in the muscles, heart and nerves. Potassium deficiency can lead to a condition called insulin resistance, a factor in weight gain and diabetes. Supplementing with potassium citrate may help reverse these effects. In fact, a 6-year research study involving 86,360 women in the U.S. showed that a high potassium intake was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Reduces Kidney Stone formation on Low Carbohydrate Diets!
In a recent study involving children on very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets for seizure disorders, potassium citrate reduced calcium in the urine and reduced the risk of kidney stones FIVE-fold! Senior investigator at John Hopkins’s, Eric Kossoff, MD, said this about potassium citrate: “We can confidently say this is a safe and powerful way to prevent kidney stones, and it should become part of standard therapy in all ketogenic dieters, not just those who already show elevated urine calcium levels.” A prescription version of potassium citrate equivalent to 12 capsules daily is used to lower risk of certain kidney stones. One of the goals is to keep the urine pH at 6-7.
A study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2006, proposed that potassium citrate is a “simple” and “inexpensive” way to help reverse the negative effects of a “Western diet on bone health while also improving blood pressure”. It is especially effective for postmenopausal women with osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) and those at risk of osteopenia such as the elderly. Their study also used the equivalent of 12 capsules daily showing a 1.87% increase in bone density in just 12 months of taking the potassium citrate.
Citrate is best!
The citrate version of potassium has acid-neutralizing properties to support proper acid-base balance for bone health and other benefits. Most western diets leave our bodies acidic, so the “acid-reversing” property of potassium citrate is especially beneficial!
Take potassium supplements wisely
Be sure and consult your healthcare provider prior to taking potassium supplements. Certain medications, such as “ACE Inhibitors” for blood pressure, can raise blood potassium levels. Take only under medical supervision. 3 capsules twice daily may be recommended for those in good health for general prevention. For those with high blood pressure, rapid weight loss diets, osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle loss of aging, or kidney stone tendency, 6 capsules twice daily may be recommended (if normal kidneys and not on ACE inhibitors).
References: Arch Intern Med, vol 171, 2011 , J Clin Hypertens, vol 10, 2008, J Am S Neph, 2006 Nov:17(11):3213, J Nutr, vol 138, 2008 , Pediatrics, 164, 2009, Nutr Rev, vol 68, 2010, Moore, Richard MD, The High Blood Pressure Solution, 1993.